The screen time debate among parents has been an ongoing conversation since the internet burst began, and this conversation has continued to evolve in light of the pandemic. With virtual school a reality for many American children, families can often feel powerless to control how much screen time is allowed for their children.

This new reality makes screens inevitably a major part of remote learning and understanding how to balance this screen time with leisure time has become more important than ever before.

How and why you should limit tech time between school and leisure for kids

There are many reasons why limiting screen time has long been seen as beneficial to children and teens. Too much screen time has been linked with obesity, sleep disruptions, behavioral problems, and impaired social skills. However, with the new challenges the pandemic presents, parents are now forced to look at screen time limits in a new way.

Because much of a student’s school day now consists of required online learning, the first step in trying to reduce and limit screen time is realizing that we are living in unprecedented times where strict limits on screen time are unfeasible. Even expert groups such as the American Association of Pediatrics, which had previously advised no more than 2 hours of screen time per day, are acknowledging these challenging circumstances and urging parents to focus on quality over quantity of screen time.

With these inherent challenges in mind, here are some tips for establishing healthy screen habits this year:

1. Set clear expectations and follow through – maintaining healthy screen time usage is easier when there is a set routine and expectations in place. Set guidelines for your children about when, how much, and what type of recreational screen usage is allowed and encourage your children to monitor their own consumption to help foster responsibility.

2. Create time for physical activity – With so much required screen time for school, children are often missing out on essential kinesthetic activity and building negative sedentary habits. Encourage children to get in at least one hour of activity a day whether this is taking a bike ride, going for a walk, or even just playing outside in the backyard.

3. Encourage socialization during screen time – Because one of the negative consequences of too much screen time is developing poor social skills, it can help to make recreational screen time social. Encourage video conferencing to talk to friends and family or use screen time as family time to watch a movie together and converse about what you watched

4. Schedule in-person quality time – To avoid isolation from too much tech time, intentionally craft time each week where your family can spend time together without any devices. This could include weekly family dinner, sporting activities, or story time.

5. Make bedrooms screen-free zones – In order to avoid the negative sleep consequences that come with too much screen time, eliminate all screens before bed and in the bedroom. Getting enough sleep is known to offset negative impacts of screen time, so set consistent asleep and awake times and disallow screens an hour before bedtime.

6. Model healthy screen habits – Kids will naturally model what they see from their parents, so make sure you are setting a good example for modeling and limiting your own screen time and giving your kids your full attention during family time.

BlueFire can help

BlueFire Wilderness Therapy is a premier wilderness therapy program for troubled teens struggling with emotional, social, and behavioral challenges. We utilize a comprehensive approach to teen treatment based on research and decades of experience. By combining the best of individualized clinical work, family therapy, adventure activities, and equine therapy we help adolescents make lasting changes. For more information, please call (208) 502-2326.

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